Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Live-blogging the State of the Union

By Michael J.W. Stickings

***REGULAR UPDATES BELOW***

Alright. So here we are. I'm not expecting much from this evening's State of the Union. Or, rather, I'm expecting the usual. More of the same from a president who has nothing left but the fumes of his own hubris. That's enough to wreak havoc both at home and abroad, of course, and particularly in Iraq, where The Surge is the last gasp, a desperate attempt to salvage something, and to secure a way out. People will die because Bush is still president. That much is clear. But now what? Perhaps he'll show some humanity, perhaps he'll reach out, admit mistakes, at least in theory, but it's not as if he can do anything more domestically and it's not as if he can strike out beyond America's borders. Or, no. Check that. He can. And may. He'll stick to his "new" strategy in Iraq, he'll lob rhetorical bombs at Iran and possibly Syria, and perhaps North Korea. And -- who knows? -- maybe he'll even mention Darfur just to show he isn't entirely self-absorbed. Maybe he'll even admit that the climate crisis is real.

I'm not even sure why I'm doing this. I'm hardly looking forward to the speech. More than anything, I suppose, I'm interested in the theater of it all. The Republicans were soundly defeated in last November's midterms. And the Republican defeat, the loss of both the Senate and the House, as well as losses at the state and local levels around the country, was also, in part, a rebuke of Bush, a vote against his presidency, a vote against the Iraq War. How will Bush act in front of a Democratic Congress? How will he behave in hostile territory? How sympathetically will the Democrats treat him? How enthusiastically will the Republicans cheer him? Will Bush look and sound presidential? (Does he ever?) Or will he look like the small man and even smaller president he is?

So here we go. Here's my live-blogging of the SOTU:

What's the state of the Union, you ask? Strong, I presume. Or "strong". Bush would never admit otherwise. Because he likely can't imagine otherwise. His America exists only in his mind, inside his bubble, according to his own righteousness.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The big question -- for me, the most pressing question -- is this:

Will Bush and Lieberman pull a Madonna-Britney tonight?

**********

And Bush enters...

(And Blogger isn't working...)

**********

-- How weird. Cheney and Pelosi behind Bush. How refreshing. Oh, he says something to the Speaker. I couldn't hear what. And she introduces him...

-- "Madame Speaker". A very nice touch, I'll give him credit for that. As good an ice-breaker as there could have been.

(I won't comment on everything he says. I don't have the stamina for it tonight. Just a few remarks here and there.)

**********

-- "I congratulate the Democrat majority." I hate it when Republicans say "Democrat" like that. It's Democratic.

-- "This economy is on the move." Well, sure. It's going somewhere.

-- "We must balance the federal budget." Oh, right, the budget. The one Bush found in the black and sent well into the red? Yeah, that one. But there won't be any tax increases. Of course not. There just needs to be spending discipline in Washington. Meaning what, exactly? Easy to say, not so easy to do. And now he intends for the budget to be balanced in five years? After such irresponsibility? Fine. He won't be president anyway. He can say whatever he wants.

-- All domestic stuff so far... So boring... I knew I should have avoided this. Isn't the NHL all-star skills competition on tonight?

-- I need a drink.

-- Health care. Yup, the focus is on private health insurance, but now... two new initiatives! Hoo-wah! Still, it's nothing close to universal coverage. Making health care more affordable only goes so far. Many of the uninsured will remain so, while many of the insured still won't be able to afford anything more than basic services.

-- Border patrol. Ah, the "temporary work program" idea. Fine. Much better than what the Tancredoite xenophobes in his own party have been recommending. But, you know, I now need a passport to go to the U.S. Not good for Canadians.

-- Energy diversification. Clean energy. Okay, but is it just talk? What do your oil buddies say, Mr. President?

-- Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.............................

-- (Blogger still isn't working. I'll keep writing anyway.)

-- I really, really dislike these things. SOTUs, I mean.

-- WAIT! Did he say "global climate change"?! Yes, he did! But... that's all he said. So... what? Did he just admit that it's real, that it's not a hoax? Or what?

**********

-- TERRORISM TIME.

-- America and her allies have been "staying on the offensive". Indeed. But more offence in Afghanistan and less offence in Iraq would have been a good plan.

-- And let the fearmongering begin. He just referenced the alleged Britain-based plot to blow up trans-Atlantic planes. But that was never the plot authorities made it out to be. It was really more of a concept that never made it out of early planning. This is not to dismiss it, jut to put it in perspective, context.

-- Yes, the terrorists are bad. We know that. Thanks. And now he's quoting the terrorists. Yes, fine. We get it. We've gotten it. They wish us harm. He keeps mentioning totalitarianism. I'm not sure jihadism is quite Nazism or Soviet Communism. Whatever. Bush lumps them all together anyway. Evildoers, right?

-- 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. Get it?

**********

-- The response is all quite subdued. Even from Republicans. Except when Bush promised not to raise taxes. That got the blood going.

-- IRAQ. I'm not watching, I'm listening. But I just caught a glimpse of John Kerry. He's not amused. (Did Bush really win Ohio? What about those voting irregularities? Hmmm.)

-- There is still time to turn the Iraq War around. We must turn our attention to victory. Oh. Thanks. Too bad hope -- wishing it were so -- isn't much of a policy.

-- The Surge: More troops "to find the terrorists and clear them out". More troops to die, that is. But America's commitment isn't "open-ended," as he said in his surge speech. No, of course not. So when the surge fails, or when nothing changes for the better, or as things continue to get worse, Bush can blame the Iraqis for not doing enough, for not taking responsibility, and he can get the hell out. Blame the Iraqis, declare victory, and run.

-- "Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure." "I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way." Ah, the support-the-troops card. Implication: If you oppose me, you oppose the troops.

-- He wants more time. He's had enough time.

**********

-- IRAN. Uh... not much.

-- AFGHANISTAN. Happy talk.

-- NORTH KOREA. More happy talk.

-- Cuba, Belarus, and Burma. And... Darfur! There you go. He mentioned it. But now what?

-- Fight HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa. So does that mean you'll support contraception efforts? Didn't think so. Your crazy base doesn't go for that.

-- And now it's just fuzzy foreign policy proposals. Nothing of substance.

**********

-- Dikembe Mutombo. (Great, great shot-blocker. One of the NBA's best defensive players ever.) He's in the gallery tonight. Geez, he's huge.

-- I can't take much more of this. But I'm committed.

-- Where's that drink?

-- The subway hero. Great. How can you not admire him? But what's the point? He's just being exploited? (Does he know he's being exploited? Does he understand the game? Is he a willing participant in this madness?)

**********

-- Mmmm. Laphroaig. Nice.

**********

-- And the state of the Union is? -- strong. Of course.

-- But there wasn't much confidence behind that assessment, was there?

**********

-- Well, that was pointless. Such a waste of time. There's no way I can deal with the media reaction, which will be typically shallow. What else is on? (Oh, I suppose I'll watch the Democratic response from Jim Webb. Then I'll start flipping.)

-- Webb's fine. But flat. These responses are never effective. Except Webb's last line: "These Presidents [the Roosevelts, Eisenhower] took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way." I certainly hope so.

-- And now I'm done. See you later.

(You can find the text of Bush's address here, of Webb's response here. Just in case you can't get quite enough of this.)

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